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Mixing art and science: A bridge over troubled waters or a bridge too far?

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Nursing commentators exhort that nursing practice is both an art and a science, without really considering the differing philosophical assumptions implicit in the divide. This mixture of competing ideals and philosophies is set within a rigid, fundamentalist medical model of healthcare that compels empirical evidence to be the foundation of decision-making. Some of this evidence is derived from within the emergent methodologies of the social sciences, but there is little credence given to the vast resource of the humanities. The resulting plethora of methodologies has created warring factions between the extremes of the quantitative and qualitative researcher. Beyond this argument is the certainty that the uniting feature of all research is language and, as Bakhtin suggests, ‘language is only in the dialogic interaction of those who make use of it’. To understand how art and science can intertwine to create a human science, an exploration of how nursing is embedded in the heteroglossia of a diverse society is needed. My own developmental journey into the world of research illustrates the iteration of multiple influences to find an explanation that feels comfortable. If we taught health carers to think creatively rather than respond unimaginatively, citing evidence as the rationale, perhaps the current paradox of individualised patient care appearing to consist of doing universal tasks to a named person could be avoided.

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